Tag Archives: Catering

When Irish stomachs are growling…

21 Mar

Although not well known as a culinary giant, the food of Ireland is delicious. Simple and rustic, the traditional dishes of the emerald isle are perfect for entertaining. In the past week I’ve catered 2 events that wanted an Irish menu. One of the best things about Irish cooking is that there are lots of potatoes and everyone loves potatoes.Irish food has a great way of getting the most flavor out of basic ingredients. My Potato Leek soup is easily transformed into the traditional Irish soup, Colcannon, by adding bacon and cabbage. Lamb Stew is given a classy make-over by adding tri-tip and O’hara’s Irish Red Beer. And, while the Irish are big on desserts, an apple oatmeal crisp with whiskey anglaise pays tribute to the warm and sweet flavors celebrated in their beverage of choice.

The first even I did this week was a luncheon for the teacher’s at my mom’s school in Orlando. The menu was simple and classy and did not lack in flavor. Here’s what I served:

Potato leek soup with cabbage and bacon

Pub Salad
Mixed greens with tomatoes, cucumbers, fried onions and Irish cheddar, served with creamy herb dressing and roasted shallot vinaigrette

Banger Sandwiches
Irish sausage on rolls with whiskey glazed onions and Guinness mustard

Traditional Breads
Irish soda and brown bread served with Guinness butter and jam

Apple-Oatmeal Crisp with Vanilla Irish Whiskey Sauce
Apples baked with brown sugar, cinnamon, and oatmeal and topped with a creamy vanilla sauce infused with Irish whiskey

Irish Punch
Lime sherbert and 7-up

The event was really great. I love seeing the teacher’s so happy to have food. There were about 65 fed and I just made it with the food. I really thought that my numbers were right on the money, but I guess those teachers were hungry! Anyway, it the event went off without a hitch. Like I always say, the best events are when the food is gone and people are still talking about it. Next year’s event will have to be even better.

The second event I did was for a good friend in Harrisburg. They asked me to do a traditional Irish dinner for about 12 of their friends. Even though I have cooked Irish food for awhile, and I got a little bit of practice from the luncheon, I was nervous. I mean these people are Irish through and through. They’ve been to Ireland and they know when the food is right and when it’s just not. I was intimidated but I pressed on. Here’s the menu for the dinner party:

traditional potato leek soup with cabbage and bacon

Bangers and Boxties
potato pancakes with Irish sausage and whiskey glazed onions

Chicken and Mushroom Hand Pies
miniature pies filled with chicken and mushrooms, served with a savory dipping sauce

Braised Lamb and Beef with Guinness
Slow roasted lamb and tri tip with root vegetables

Soda Bread with Guinness Butter

Apple Crisp
Apples cooked with cinnamon, brown sugar and oatmeal with Irish Cream Anglaise Sauce

Shamrock Cookies
Decorated sugar cookies with royal icing

This menu is a little more intimate and fun. I could add more details since I didn’t have to do as much volume. Again everything was a big hit. Although my boxties were not quite what they were expecting. There’s a rhyme is in Irish folklore that says: “Boxtie on a griddle, boxtie in a pan, if you can not make a boxtie, you’ll never get a man.” Well, thank God I don’t live in ireland and thank God I’m already married, because my boxties just weren’t right. They tasted good, but they needed to be thinner, more like crepes than pancakes. Lesson learned…

Whenever I do cater jobs I get asked the same thing, can I have the recipe or are these kitchen secrets. Personally I think that a good chef has nothing to hide. I share all of my recipes. Although, I’m mid-book writing and some recipes will have stay mine for a little while longer 🙂

As requested by a few of my clients, here’s the recipe for my apple crisp.

Apple Crisp with Whiskey Creme Anglaise

For the crisp:

2 red delicious apples, large dice
2 granny smith apples, large dice
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the apples with the white sugar, half of the cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of flour and the raisins. Put the apples in a baking dish. Combine the rest of the ingredients and top the apples. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the edges are bubbly and the top is brown.

for the anglaise:

1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 egg yolks
5 tablespoons sugar
1 oz Irish Whiskey or Baileys
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

In a sauce pan, combine the milk and cream and heat until wisps of steam are visible. While you are waiting for the dairy to heat, wisk together the sugar and egg yolks. Whip until the yolks are thick and pale yellow. Add in the vanilla and whiskey. When the milk is hot, slowly add it into the egg mixture, wisking the whole time. Add everything back into the saucepan and stir gently until the anglaise thickens to the point that it coats the back of a spoon. Chill and serve over apple crisp.

Enjoy my friends

Always thinking of the next meal


Dinner Party

16 Nov

Last night I played chef for 2 of my favorite clients. They asked me to go with them to a friend’s house to make dinner. I didn’t have much time to plan, so I kept the menu simple. A classic combination of French and my own personal flare. I love making things that are fresh and flavorful, but not overcomplicated. Here’s the menu:

Cheese Course
Le Coutances and Foi Epi with apples and French bread

French Onion Soup

Honey Mustard Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Ratatouille and Creamy Polenta

Classic lemon crepes with ginger cream

I wanted to start with French Onion simply because it’s classic, and easily turned vegetarian. With one client being vegetarian, I wanted to make something that wouldn’t make her feel like she was having a different meal than everyone else. French Onion Soup is typically made with beef stock and is not veggie friendly, but my version is. I substitute mushroom and vegetable stock to maintain the intensity of flavor that French onion usually has. By adding dijon mustard instead of worchestershire sauce you get a delightful bright flavor without the extra saltiness that worchestershire sauce can sometimes bring to the party. Top the whole thing with buttery nutty guyere cheese and this is one flavorful vegetarian version of French Onion soup.

Dinner needed to have the same intensity of flavor that also had a fulfilling flavor in a vegetarian version. The polenta and ratatouille made a satisfying main course for my vegetarian client, and adding pork tenderloin medallions to the other dishes, made for a well rounded meal. I served the pork with a honey mustard sauce that was equal parts whole grain dijon mustard and clover honey. I cooked the pork to a perfect medium and then added the sauce sparingly. The pork was so perfectly cooked, I didn’t want to mask the flavor or the color of the meat.

The flavor that tied all the dishes together was thyme. Thyme in the soup and thyme in the ratatouille pulled both courses together. Someone once told me that repeated an ingredient in 2 courses was repetitive, and repeating them in 3 was a theme. But, I think that the thyme was so subtle that it didn’t come off as the same thing.

Dessert was very simple. Hand whipped cream with a 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger, 1 teaspoon vanilla, a pinch of cinnamon, and 2/3 cup of powdered sugar. The cream was rich, but still light and refreshing. It was served on top of the lemon crepes. The crepes were made with a basic sweet crepe recipe and filled with a combination of lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar. The combination of lemon and ginger was a refreshing way to finish a meal of hearty flavors.

It was a great night. I had a lot of fun cooking and chatting with my clients. I hope to do it again soon.

Always thinking of the next meal.


Daily Grind Fitness Gig

23 Aug

So today was our first official, non family related gig. It was for the great people at Daily Grind Fitness (www.dailygrindfitness.com). We were asked to provide breakfast and lunch for 30 people during a personal trainer certification session. We arrived and didn’t realize that the gym was on the second floor of the building. We were destined to get our exercise today. After a lot of help carrying things upstairs, we started setting up the tables for breakfast. Here’s what was on the menu:


with strawberry honey butter, herbed cream cheese, and orange cinnamon cream cheese


Lowfat Maple Oatmeal, Lowfat Apple

Almond Poppyseed Scones

Fresh Fruit

Strawberries, Pineapple, with fat free yogurt dip

Orange Juice, Cranberry Juice, and Freshly Brewed Coffee

IMG_0761 While the morning seemed to be sailing by, it was not without its bumps. I had ordered bagels at Panera, specifically asking for them to be arranged on a black tray (to match with the color scheme of course!) When I arrived at the bakery they had my order in a large box. Not only was there no tray, but I was told by the manager they stopped using trays years ago. I know it was only a minor set back, but at the time I was frantic. Thank God I had extra serveware at the gym.

Another lesson that we learned was to always have extra tongs/spoons/knifes and just about anything a guest could want, whether or not you were asked to bring it. That means, if coffee is ordered you must have: half and half, sugar, creamer, sweet and low, splenda, equal, skim milk, 2%, decaf, half caf, regular,  regular strong brew, regular weak brew, and a lot of patience. Ok so I’m exaggerating but you would not believe how much coffee we went through!

IMG_0768We rented the plates, linens, mugs and silverware and everything worked out great. I got everything at Taylor Rental and it couldn’t been easier. Everything looked beautiful and seamless. It was actually kind of funny that everyone kept saying how nice the plates were. The clients were the ones that suggested the rentals and although I was a little skeptical at first I think they did add a lot of class to the event.

Before we knew it the event started and Ryan stayed at the gym to maintain the food and make sure there was enough coffee. I ran home to assemble the wraps for lunch. Here’s the lunch menu:

All American Wraps

Turkey wrapped with tomatoes, lettuce, light mayonnaise, cranberries, and sharp cheddar cheese

Niçoise Wraps

Tuna, tomatoes, olive tapenade, hard boiled eggs, spinach, lemon caper dressing

Italian Chopped Salad

Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, roasted red peppers, chickpeas,
Balsamic dressing

Sweet Potato Chips

Sparkling water and Arnold Palmers

(iced tea and lemonade mixed)

IMG_0770By far the biggest hit of lunch was the turkey sandwich. People were surprised by the cranberries. I thought the tuna was really good, but I think I made a marketing error. I put “pan bagnat” on the name card. All that is a Niçoise style tuna, but well, not everyone knows that. Although people ate them, they were no where near the popularity of the turkey. The salad was good. A bit on the boring side for my tastes, but the clients seemed happy. Oh, and my biggest surprise was how well the sweet potato chips were received. Ryan thinks that I’m just used eating them so they don’t seem that different to me, but it was cool to see something so simple make such an impact.

I think the event was really great. I met a lot of people who will hopefully give me a call and want have me cook for them. I’d love to cook for the Daily Grind crew again too. Maybe next time we can shoot for the first floor 😉

Always thinking of the next mealIMG_0765


P.S. if you want to know what a nerd I am look at the timeline I put together for the event. For the record this was the original timeline and we did not stick to it entirely, but it was a good starting point:

5:45 – wake up
6:00 – coffee/breakfast
6:15 – load car
6:40 – leave for gym
7:00ish – Arrive at gym
7:05 – unpack car
7:15 – start set-up
7:30 – pick up bagels at Panera/get ice
7:45 – Continue set up
8:00 – brew coffee/ice beverages
8:15 – put out food


9:30 – go home
10:00 – arrive home
10:05 – assemble salad
10:30 – Assemble wraps
11:00 – Load car
11:15 – leave for gym
11:45 – arrive at gym
11:50 – set up lunch
12:00 – lunch is served
1:00ish – break down and leave

Open for Business

13 Aug

So I’ve been working on my business a lot recently. I did a job for my mom to cook for my  brother. The menu was fairly simple. Eggplant Parmesean and Straw and Hay (which is basically fettucini in a light alfredo sauce with peas and Italian sausage.)

I’m hoping that with the fall coming up that more people will be having football parties or need a little extra help with dinners. My mom gave me an idea of doing parties like a pampered chef party, but with cooking. You would invite some of your friends over for a cooking party and they would leave with dinner for their family!

So let me break it down…

1. You call me and we decide a menu or menus and a date and time (sounds like a party already)

2. You invite your friends and let me know how many people are coming

3. I show up at your house an hour before your friends with the ingredients and prep for the party

4. You pour the wine and your friends come over

5. We all cook a fabulous meal together

6. Your friends leave with dish and recipe(s) in hand

7. I put the kitchen back to the way it was when I arrived and head home

8. You call me to schedule another fabulous party!

Doesn’t this sound like fun? There’s nothing better than eating and cooking with friends and family! I can also follow this format and make cookies, cakes, breads, desserts, etc. Let me know if you’re interested!

Always thinking of the next meal


Foodie Filosophy

28 Jul

There are few things in life that make you stop what you’re doing, stop what you’re thinking and change everything. For me that’s food. Eating it, cooking it, reading about it… it’s simply that thing that puts me in my happy place.

Truthfully, and without irony, I love food. I don’t have a favorite mealtime or favorite dish. I don’t even have that one dish that makes it all better. What flavors will excite me on any given day is a mystery. For a long time I thought that asking people what their favorite dish was would get me an in. I’d be one step ahead knowing that one dish that could cause mood changing, eye popping, and unending smiles. The reality is that it’s never about the dish. Food is the vessel that that carries our memories (Maybe that’s why I love food so much). The forgotten sensory sensation that ties emotion through our tastebuds.

Why do we eat turkey on Thanksgiving? I guess it’s partially because it’s what the Pilgrims ate it (although I’ve read they actually ate lobster and no turkey at all.) But mostly I think it’s based on tradition and the memories we have of that tradition. Did your mother dry the poor bird beyond the salvation of gravy? Maybe it was always filled with a bag of giblets, like a little turkey day gift from those thoughtful workers at Butterball. Whatever your memory is, now imagine Thanksgiving with a juicy bird, so perfectly cooked that it doesn’t even need salt. Well it sounds good to me, but it’s not quite what I remember as Thanksgiving.

This is why I love to cook. Because as a chef I make that connection between food and memories. I can somehow change the way people feel. Did I make an event special because my food was perfect. I sure hope so… but the truth is that the best food… even if it’s meant to be the star… sits quietly in the background. Modestly taking in the praise of the flavors and textures. Hoping that the post event conversation will include the buzz of fabulous food. And knowing that all in attendance shared the magic that something as simple as a meal can make.

Always thinking of the next meal (which I guess means the next memory)


It’s all Greek to me!

26 Jul

So I was asked o bring a salad to my cousins bridal shower. The parameters? WHATEVER I WANTED! The only thing I was my cousin wanted chick peas on the salad. I originally thought about making a Mediterranean salad with roasted red peppers and artichokes, but not knowing the tastes of the masses I thought I would go a little less fancy.

Most people like Greek salad so I thought, why not. When making salad for 30 people the best idea is to keep it simple. A few ingredients that work well together and make a big flavor impact. With Greek salad this is easy to do. As with all salads you want to seek a balance of sweet, salty, soft, crunchy, acid and spice. Greek salad embraces all of these elements.

IMG_0695Here’s how I balanced the flavors in the salad.

Sweet: Sundried Tomatoes

Salty: Feta cheese/olives

Soft: Chick Peas/Feta Cheese

Crunchy: Cucumbers/Onions/lettuce

Acid: Peppers/dressing/tomatoes

Spice: Peppers/arugula

The dressing is also a very powerful element in a salad. For a Greek salad this is where the acid, and herbal notes come into play. The dressing recipe follows, but important flavor components come into play through the dressing. Oregano, lemon, and red wine vinegar are in the dressing and play a key role in Greek cooking. Here’s the dressing recipes:IMG_0697

Greek Dressing

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey

Try this salad out it’s definitely a winner on a hot summer night. Add some grilled chicken or salmon for a little boost of protein.

Always thinking of the meal


Mahjong Party

20 Jul

On Friday I catered my first official event! My aunt and grandma asked me to cater a party for 12 ladies playing Mahjong. The request was that everything was to be eaten with their fingers so they could eat and play, and I was told that the ladies were coming hungry. Because of the origins of the game I choose an Asian themed menu. Here’s what was served:

Crab Rangoon served with Sweet Chili Sauce

Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce

Asian Nachoes

Crisped wonton skins with chicken, plum sauce, cilantro,

scallions, and fontina cheese

Vegetable tray

snap peas, carrots, cucumbers

Chinese 5 Spice Popcorn

Mahjong Tile Cookies

Carrot Cupcakes

with ginger cream cheese icing

The food took approximately 7 hours to prepare. Each item I chose required a lot of prep and steps. In retrospect, tackling cut and frosted sugar cookies, cupcakes with icing, and spring rolls, all made from scratch (no boxes used here) was a little ambitious. But this was a great lesson. Knowing that my time was only constrained by the arrival of the guest, I was able to accomplish a more than if I had less time. The timing issue (if you can even call it an issue) will now be taken into account before I develop the menu.

So the bottom line? How was the food? Well, it received the best praise any cook could ask for… there was almost nothing left. The favorite was the crab rangoon, a wonton wrapper filled with a crab and cream cheese and dipped in a sweet chili sauce. The next favorite was the Asian Nachos. Toasted wonton skins topped with hoisin glazed chicken breast, fontina cheese, cilantro, and plum sauce. A fun fusion of the comfort and adventure.

Spring Rolls

Spring Rolls

Crab Rangoon

Crab Rangoon

Dessert can obviously not go overlooked. Between the cookies and the cupcakes the cookies were the overwhelming favorite. The Chinese lettering proved to be a little bit of a challenge for me, but I think that they turned out great in the end. Below are the event pictures. I’d love to cook for the Mahjong gals again. And hopefully they will be booking another party with me soon.

Carrot Cupcakes with Ginger Cream Cheese Icing

Carrot Cupcakes with Ginger Cream Cheese Icing

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Always thinking of the next meal